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Monday, November 28, 2005

La Paz

28 November 2005
Marina Palmira

As usual when we get into a marina we are kept busy by a list of boat chores and the social whirlwind of the cruising community. This has been an especially busy marina stay because it's our first since the beginning of September and will be our last possibly until the end of March. So we're taking advantage of unlimited fresh water and electrical power to clean up before heading over to the mainland.

John has finished stripping the caprail, bulwarks, and eyebrow. We talked about varnishing and painting it, but since we have a can of Cetol we'll probably go back to that on the caprail. We'll try leaving the bulwarks bare this time around. We've also cleaned out the chain locker, and will be breaking down and washing the dinghy. It's kind of a belated Spring cleaning time for us right now.

Which hasn't been helped by the north winds blasting through La Paz at the moment. If this isn't an official "screaming norther," I'd hate to see what one of those looks like. The channel outside the marina is white with breaking waves and the Port Captain officially closed the harbor this morning to boats less than 500 tons. A Newport 30 (See Ya, a Ha-Ha boat) tried to come in here last night and ended up on the beach without its keel and rudder. The cruisers rallied to help the owner strip it before the locals could, but since the boat itself is no longer worth the cost of the repairs required, it will most likely be scrapped.

There's supposed to be a break in the weather later this week and we are scheduled to check out of the marina on Friday. We are definitely getting out of here before the next norther comes through. With temps at night dipping into the mid to low 60's it's time for us to head south!

Linda and John

P.S. We were thrilled to see the beautiful Hans Christian 43, Panache (formerly Susie L.), in Marina de La Paz this morning. We've known this boat since joining the Hans Christian Owners Association 14 years ago, and it was nice to meet her new owner, Ken. We hope to catch up with them again on the mainland.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Smooth Sailing

10 November 2005
Candeleros Chico to Agua Verde

We gave it our best shot and had the spinnaker up as soon as we were out of the anchorage at 0930. But by 1400, when we'd only averaged 1.6 knots of speed during each of the last two hours, we were getting discouraged. Even though the water was like a glassy lake we actually gave it another half an hour before turning on the engine and finishing up the run into the south anchorage of Agua Verde. Made a quick trip into the village with SolMate to see if the fresh shipment of vegetables had arrived yet but they were running late so we'd have to return the next day.

11 November 2005
Agua Verde

As soon as we spotted two power boats exiting the north anchorage this morning we made a beeline over there to re-anchor Nakia in anticipation of the predicted north breeze. After a dinghy ride to the beach we walked the dirt roads to the village and stocked up on essentials like avocados, home made flour tortillas, zucchini, bananas, peppers, onions, and country fresh cheese. Agua Verde is known for its goat cheese, but this may have been made from cow's milk. Charlie and Grania from Zester had visited the cheese maker himself and their understanding was that conditions weren't exactly right for making the goat cheese. John doesn't care for the rubbery texture, and it's pretty wet, but I like a little bit now and then.

The wind had already started to come up by the time we got back to the dinghy and it almost looked as though it might rain. John got in the water and managed to get some of the bottom clean before it was time to head over to Zester for dinner. We made it an early evening since both boats planned to head south at day break.

12 November 2005
Ague Verde to Isla San Francisco

Wow! This has to have been one of the best sailing days we've ever had. We motored 15 minutes to get out of the anchorage before sunrise, and then set the main and yankee jib to get offshore around a reef before turning south. We then had a wing and wing downwind sail the entire rest of the day! What a switch from the last time we made this trip and had to motor the whole way. It was a little rolly during the morning, with a few 8' seas behind us, but when we finally reached the San Jose channel at Nopolo it flattened out and we were under just "the twins" (twin head sails: jib and drifter out to either side) until we hit seven knots of speed and took the drifter down.
Total trip time: 11 hours (literally sunrise to sunset).
Total hours sailed: 10.5!
Total distance: 57 nautical miles.
As an extra bonus, after we dropped the hook Stan and MJ from SolMate came over in their dinghy to present us with the award for "most miles sailed that day" - rum drinks with ice! Now that's a perfect day.

13 November 2005
Isla San Francisco

We'll probably stay here until we leave for La Paz on Wednesday. Like Lynn on Homer's Odyssey said during our beach walk this morning, "They must have put a new coat of paint on the bottom of the swimming pool because it looks just as bright as it did when we were here in the Spring." This anchorage is truly a jewel in the southern Sea of Cortez. We'll drink a "Wish You Were Here" toast to all of you when we meet on SolMate for happy hour later this afternoon.

Linda and John

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Gin Clear Water

6 November 2005
Bahia Salinas, Isla Carmen

A very bad swell developed during our overnight at La Lancha. The hobby-horsing was so bad that John and I brought the dinghy up on deck at 2:30 in the morning just in case it got any worse and we had to leave in a hurry. Fortunately it didn't, but we were still underway by 7:00 AM, with SolMate following shortly after.

By 11:00 we were anchored in Bahia Salinas, which had been our original destination before we diverted to La Lancha the day before. At 4:00 PM we went in for a walk around the "ghost town." It would have been nice to have leisurely poked around the abandoned buildings which used to support a large salt evaporation pond operation, but we were attacked by biting bugs as soon as we landed our dinghies on the beach. After asking permission from the lone caretaker we made a hasty tour before John pleaded to return to the boat. Sure enough, the next day his legs were covered in bug bites, and he's been in itching agony ever since. For some reason the bugs don't seem to find me as tasty as John. We have 1% hydrocortisone ointment (advertised as maximum strength), but it doesn't give him much relief. If anyone has any suggestions (besides using bug repellent in the first place!) for treating his bites, we'd love to hear them. Is it true an antihistamine like Benedryl will help?

The next morning we went on a snorkeling expedition. There didn't seem to be much life in the big bay itself, but the water was "gin clear" and we couldn't pass up the excellent visibility. John wants to know where I got the expression "gin clear water," and I don't really know - I suppose it's something I picked up from my parents or grandparents. All I know is (and he agrees) this was the clearest water we'd seen the whole time we've been in Mexico. We picked a patch of rocks inside a point a couple of miles from the boats and lucked out with the best snorkeling of our entire year. Not a lot of big fish but a nice variety of everything else. It was just beautiful and made up for the awful trip to shore the previous day.

8 November 2005
Arroyo Blanco, Isla Carmen

On the advice of some friends we continued SE along the island and managed to cover nine and a half miles (that includes our four tacks) in four hours of sailing. It was slow but very relaxing as we listened to XM Cafe on our satellite radio (the XM station that most reminds me of KFOG back in San Francisco). This spot is not a protected anchorage, but in the calm conditions we set our hook and waited for SolMate to arrive so we could take the short hike up the arroyo. The rock formations were fascinating and we're very glad we made the stop.

9 November 2005
Candeleros Chico, Baja

This morning we snorkeled with the largest school (thousands) of bait fish I've ever seen. I'm sure the almost 60 pelicans I counted on the cliffs above were happy to see us leave. After lunch we sailed past the southern end of Isla Carmen and back over to the Baja. We were enjoying a nice leisurely spinnaker sail until we spotted another sailboat making a beeline for the same one-boat anchorage as us - only they were motoring! We immediately doused the spinnaker and started the engine, but the little trailer sailor beat us in. There was no place else to go before sunset so we picked out a corner and set a stern anchor to keep out of their way. We'll probably head to Agua Verde after another snorkel tomorrow so it doesn't really matter that much. Oh, and we saw two coyotes going about their business on the beach at sunset tonight!

Linda and John

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Moving Along

26-29 October 2005
Santa Rosalia

Had a really busy time in Santa Rosalia - well, I did, while John mostly tried to stay off his feet for his cut to finish healing. I made multiple trips to various mercados. I like Santa Rosalia except for two things. The dirt is worse there than anywhere else we've been so far. I always get back to the boat with gritty eyes and a layer of dust on my skin. It didn't help that they were tearing up the street right out in front of the marina. The other challenge is trying to find everything you might want to buy. There are several small mercados and it seems as though they all carry different items. So it pays to stop in each one and scan the aisles to see if they have what you need. We found #4 coffee filters for another boat just by wandering in a store we hadn't thought to try yet.

John did manage to hobble up to town for two evenings out with the gang - once for Chuyita's hot dogs and Thrifty ice cream, and once for pizza at El Muelle. He took a pass on the other major social event which turned out to be a good thing. We had heard about a Halloween show being given on the 29th. The cruiser who told us about it had only sketchy info from a poster she'd seen (all in Spanish, of course). She said something about dancing, 40 pesos a ticket, and a 9:00 PM start time at the Rotary Club. Naturally we all assumed it was a children's show being put on by women, since the poster said "damas." We all made sure we got our tickets in advance and, after leaving John to hobble back to the boat, I and three couples made our way up a steep hill to the Rotary Club. There weren't any cars in the parking lot when we got there but the Halloween decorations outside told us we were in the right place. As we approached the bottom of the steps up to the porch a woman in costume came out and explained to us that this was a dance for women only - no men allowed! Needless to say the guys were all relieved to be released back to the privacy of their boats, but we gals decided to forge ahead for the sake of a unique cultural opportunity.

The inside of the hall was decorated in traditional Halloween style with jack-o-lanterns and orange and purple (maybe black wasn't available) balloons. Aside from the ladies who were there to set up, we were the only ones there. Naturally we had arrived early in order to get good seats for the "show." There was a bar, a dance floor, and a DJ setup. We ordered drinks and stuck it out for about an hour before two in our group decided to bail. By that time the locals had started to arrive and the music started up but no one was dancing yet. Many women were in some great costumes or at least dressed all in black for the occasion. Two of us stayed for awhile longer to watch the dancing when it finally started (just normal club stuff), before the cigarette smoke and repetitious dance beat finally got to us. While it didn't turn out to be quite the experience we had imagined, it wasn't a total loss since it was a fund raiser for a local charity. Our take on the "ladies only" aspect was that they must relish the opportunity to get out for an evening of drinking, smoking, and dancing without the presence of men to inhibit them!

30 October 2005
Santa Rosalia to Isla San Marcos (19 miles)

We departed the day before a Norther was supposed to start blowing. Figured we'd be better off in a protected anchorage than the confines of the small harbor (with questionable holding). The south end of San Marcos is recommended for these conditions so we headed there with SolMate. Had a long day of trying to sail as much as possible, with lots of motoring thrown in. The anchorage is very pretty with the major drawback being that it is downwind of a gypsum mine. We never saw over 30 knots while we were there but the waves out in the channels were pretty big.

1 November 2005
Isla San Marcos to Punta Chivato (13 miles)

We will never anchor in that part of San Marcos again unless conditions are absolutely calm, and even then I think I'd pass. We were under a constant barrage of gypsum dust until I actually started to have a little dry cough. Got a coating of dust inside and out the boat and could feel it on our skin. Wiping off tables and counters didn't help since a new layer would form almost immediately. Ugh! Even though the seas were still up from the previous days of northerlies we left SolMate and headed for the protection behind Punta Chivato where we knew another boat had been riding it out. Had a bit of a wild sail in 6-8 foot seas. We've experienced similar or worse conditions but weren't prepared for it this time, so was a little too exciting. Was a relief to duck into Chivato where John took his first swim since cutting his foot.

2 November 2005
Punta Chivato to San Juanico (55 miles)

Another long day of trying to sail but mostly motoring - this one took almost 12 hours, before sunrise to almost sunset. This is one of most beautiful anchorages in Baja, which we didn't get to explore well enough when we came north because we were sitting out a big southerly. Dirt roads to hike on, beaches to walk on, and great snorkeling reefs and rocks. I could have easily stayed a few more days here.

November 5, 2005
San Juanico to La Lancha, Isla Carmen (30 miles)

Another day of light winds although we sailed the last two hours and anchored under sail. Think we may stay two nights here although we're anxious to get to Agua Verde where Milagro (and Rocky!) is after finishing their crossing from San Carlos yesterday.

We have a reservation at Marina Palmira from November 16 to December 2 where we'll do lots of boat chores and meet up with our friends, Ron and Anita, on Liberty Call II. They are doing the Baja Ha-Ha right now and Ron was the first Ha-Ha'er to check into the Sonrisa HAM net!

Linda and John